Symptoms and Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Among Children - Utah and Wisconsin, March-May 2020

Pediatrics. 2021 Jan;147(1):e2020027268. doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-027268. Epub 2020 Oct 8.


Background and objectives: Limited data exist on severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in children. We described infection rates and symptom profiles among pediatric household contacts of individuals with coronavirus disease 2019.

Methods: We enrolled individuals with coronavirus disease 2019 and their household contacts, assessed daily symptoms prospectively for 14 days, and obtained specimens for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and serology testing. Among pediatric contacts (<18 years), we described transmission, assessed the risk factors for infection, and calculated symptom positive and negative predictive values. We compared secondary infection rates and symptoms between pediatric and adult contacts using generalized estimating equations.

Results: Among 58 households, 188 contacts were enrolled (120 adults; 68 children). Secondary infection rates for adults (30%) and children (28%) were similar. Among households with potential for transmission from children, child-to-adult transmission may have occurred in 2 of 10 (20%), and child-to-child transmission may have occurred in 1 of 6 (17%). Pediatric case patients most commonly reported headache (79%), sore throat (68%), and rhinorrhea (68%); symptoms had low positive predictive values, except measured fever (100%; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 44% to 100%). Compared with symptomatic adults, children were less likely to report cough (odds ratio [OR]: 0.15; 95% CI: 0.04 to 0.57), loss of taste (OR: 0.21; 95% CI: 0.06 to 0.74), and loss of smell (OR: 0.29; 95% CI: 0.09 to 0.96) and more likely to report sore throat (OR: 3.4; 95% CI: 1.04 to 11.18).

Conclusions: Children and adults had similar secondary infection rates, but children generally had less frequent and severe symptoms. In two states early in the pandemic, we observed possible transmission from children in approximately one-fifth of households with potential to observe such transmission patterns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / transmission*
  • COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing / trends*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification*
  • Utah / epidemiology
  • Wisconsin / epidemiology
  • Young Adult